While everyone in the west is celebrating spring, rebirth and chocolate bunnies we are celebrating something entirely different here in China: Death. Today is Qingming Day, or Tomb Sweeping Day.
When I first signed my contract it listed all the holidays I would have off: Spring Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, National Day, Dragon Boat Day (still curious about that one) and Tomb Sweeping Day.
Easter and Qingming Day do have some things in common; the date they fall is based on the spring equinox. Easter is the Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox (which is why the date changes every year). Qingming falls 2 weeks after the equinox. It just so happens that this year they fall at the same time.
There are also other similarities. In ancient China the holiday was used as a celebration of spring. The name Qingming literally translates to â€œclear brightnessâ€ meaning the arrival of the warm sun. As a celebration of the new growth they would dye eggs and break them open 9sound familiar?). The emperor would plant trees in honor of the coming spring.
Nowadays though, it is less about spring and more about remembering your ancestors. You are suppose to literally sweep the tombs of your ancestors, remove any growing weeds and make the whole thing look nice. Then you pray, make offering of food, and burn paper money. Basically, Qingming is a day to show respect to your ancestors.
But getting outside and enjoying the spring is another reason to celebrate the day and since ancient times, flying kites on Qingming day is a tradition. For several weekends the weather has been great and dozens of kites have dotted the skies all over campus and downtown. (And as the weeks continue many kites are now dotting the tops of trees after getting hopelessly tangled.)
Qingming also makes an important day for tea connoisseurs. Green tea (and Dragon Well tea in particular) leaves that are picked before the holiday are considered the finest (and priced accordingly). Tea made before today will be marked as â€œPre-Qingmingâ€ as the first leaves of spring are said to have a lighter and more subtle flavor.
Happy Qingming Day!
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